During the visit, I listened to Martin talk in a variety of contexts to different audiences and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak candidly with him for about 45 minutes in a one on one setting.
Martin’s role enables him to gain insights from the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) programmes of enterprises around the world. I would guess that Martin has had RPA related conversations with 50-60 enterprises in the last six months.
Recognising the uniqueness of Martin’s perspective, I approached the conversation with a desire to understand his views on where the opportunities lay for organisations using RPA.
For an expanded discussion on RPA programmes in New Zealand, you can download our Complete Guide to RPA, which focuses on the practical considerations of successful RPA programmes or carry on reading for our synopsis of where the opportunities lie for enterprises to strengthen their RPA programmes over the next 12 months.
1. Maximise the use of your ‘robot real estate'
Businesses using RPA already are looking for the immediate opportunities to show value to the organisation. The low hanging fruit is not just looking for the easy processes to automate but looking at how you use your ‘robot real-estate’. Software robots can work 24-hours a day, seven days a week - Is your virtual workforce working full-time? Based on a 40-hour working week and 48 working weeks in the year (us humans like to have a holiday), the potential utlisation of a person's time is 115,200 minutes annually.Software robots are not limited to 40-hours per week or the ability to work at any given time of the day providing a utlisation capacity of 524,160 minutes a year (24 hours a day x 60 minutes x 365 days a year). Measuring and optimising your software robots utlisation is a quick win to increase value to your business. When executing processes outside of normal working hours caution is suggested to select processes appropriate for lights out execution, i.e. processes that have low instances of support but ultimately the opportunity is maximising the potential utilisation of your virtual workforce.
2. Approach RPA scale from the opposite logic
Shift your focus from justification to transformation
Determining how many software robots are required is ultimately an investment decision which is typically approached from the perspective of justification. The real opportunity is not to ask ‘why we need’ five or ten robots, but to ask how we would use 50, 100 or 200 and what we would be doing differently. The number you use for this question is an arbitrary point. The intent is to encourage organisations to approach the question from a mindset of transformation versus working with the status quo.
3. Create and strengthen RPA as a true enterprise platform and capability
RPA will be the platform that integrates and enables future transformative technologies
The opportunities that technologies like AI and Machine learning will present are only just beginning to emerge. While the future opportunities of transformative technologies are yet to become clear, it is evident that they will require an enterprise platform to integrate and enable capability. I also attended AI Day 2018 this week and I heard a CIO go as far as to say "RPA is the new operating platform". The immediate opportunity is to extend and strengthen your RPA programme as a true enterprise platform and capability. If your organisation doesn’t create a true capability, then all you have is a tool that will be replaced in the future.
As a second point, one of our own observations is that RPA tools can help organisations capture and record data that is being used to make business decisions. One of the dependents of successful AI and machine learning will be the availability of quality data which from recording business decisions and outcomes – this is how AI learns. It will be enterprises who have high-quality data available that are the early winners when these technologies are ready. In the words of Seneca, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
4. Keep looking for the easy processes
Simple processes will continue to provide the least risk, be the fastest to deliver and drive return on investment.
As a programme, RPA will be ultimately measured by the benefit it returns to the organisation. Hone your skills in process assessment to understand where to find processes and how to determine complexity. The temptation will be to seek out higher-profile processes to automate, but these may not be the processes that provide the greatest benefit to the business. In addition to honing your skills, consider ‘casting the net’ wider within the organisation. Many organisations look to the obvious areas for processes to automate, but RPA is function agnostic and organisations are still discovering innovative applications for RPA daily. The volume of processes suitable for automation in different areas may vary, but you may be surprised what you find. The ability of the organisation to deliver and demonstrate benefits broadly throughout an organisation will be a determinant of the potential growth of RPA within an organisation.
5. Keep looking for complimentary technologies
Extend the reach and depth of automation within the organisation
Just like wine and cheese, strawberries and cream, or good people and noble ventures, each is great by themselves but exponentially better together. As a technology, RPA is no different; RPA is best suited to highly repetitive, rule-based processes. Ultimately there is only a certain volume of processes, located in certain areas that can be automated. The opportunity is to seek out complimentary technologies that extend the process use cases suitable for automation, increasing the reach and depth of application for RPA in an organisation.
We are conducting business in a period of unprecedented technological advancement. The real opportunity is not the application of any technology (current of future) individually but the ability to integrate and use technologies in aggregation. Robotic Process Automation provides organisations with just that ability but to achieve this the opportunity is to build, strengthen and embed RPA as a true enterprise capability within an organisation. Ultimately the growth of your RPA programme will be based on the value delivered to the business. The opportunity is to be very clear on where processes are identified and how they are evaluated for automation. There is still more low-hanging fruit to find – which is possible if you hone your skills and widen the net. Equally look at how you are using your robot real-estate to drive absolute value in terms of increased output and continually seek out complimentary technologies that will enable you to extend the reach and depth of automation in your enterprises.
By way of concluding, perhaps the most pertinent point is a challenge to shift our paradigm on the justification for RPA. By nature, organisations ask for justification of requested resources. How different would the conversation be if we approached this conversation from the opposite direction? What would the discussion be if instead, we asked how would we use 50 or 100 robots? Again, the number used is an arbitrary point, provided it invokes the respondents to think from a transformative perspective.
Acknowledgements to Maurice Dubey who was a contributor to this blog.
Want to learn more about Robotic Process automation? Remember to download our Complete Guide to Robotic Process automation including New Zealand use cases and lessons from early adopters.